Monday, March 17, 2014

Penske 1-2-3 At First Day of Barber Test

Will Power had a Good First Day
The first official session of the 2014 season looks a lot like when the final checkered flag flew in 2013: Will Power on top.

Power set the fastest lap of day one of testing on his 39th of 48 laps, with a  time of 1:07.6492. A Penske teammate was second but it wasn't a three-time Indianapolis 500 winner or runner-up in the 2013 championship, it was Juan Pablo Montoya who was 0.0678 seconds back as the Colombian makes a return to IndyCar for the first time since 2000. Helio Castroneves rounds out the top three, 0.0722 seconds back of Power. Montoya and Castroneves recorded 55 and 51 laps respectively.

Scott Dixon made it a Chevrolet 1-2-3-4, 0.1733 seconds back of Power. Takuma Sato was the top Honda in fifth place ahead of Ryan Briscoe in his first official session since returning to Ganassi Racing in sixth. Justin Wilson was seventh and his fastest lap came on his 31st and final lap of the day. Andretti Autosport Hondas of James Hinchcliffe and Ryan Hunter-Reay rounded out the top ten.

Charlie Kimball was eleventh ahead of his new Ganassi teammate Tony Kanaan. Mike Conway was thirteenth in his first official session driving for Ed Carpenter Racing. Graham Rahal was fourteenth ahead of Josef Newgarden rounding out the top fifteen with 0.9306 seconds between Power and Newgarden.

Sebastián Saavedra was seventeenth ahead of Marco Andretti. Mikhail Aleshin was eighteenth in his first official IndyCar session. The Russian driver's day ended early after needing a tow back to the garage after a fire cause by a fuel issue. Aleshin was the top rookie driver with Jack Hawksworth and Carlos Muñoz nineteenth and twentieth respectively. Oriol Servià was twenty-first after completing only seven laps while Sébasten Bourdais was twenty-second, 2.0176 seconds back of Power after his day ended with contact around turns six and seven. The Frenchman only completed ten laps.

A few thoughts from the first day of IndyCar testing:
1. I did not see Montoya being this quick, this early.

2. There are no "bad" drivers on the IndyCar grid. A driver could finish 18th and be competitive from start to finish.

3. A little disappointed we didn't see the #18 Dale Coyne Honda on track. The car has a leader circle position and I am sure Coyne will find a driver for at least St. Petersburg. Whether that driver appears on track for the first time tomorrow or for first practice at St. Petersburg remains to be seen.

4. Rough day for Bourdais. Needs a rebound for day two.

5. A little surprised Sato was top Honda but it's day one, he was quick last year and how did his season go as a whole.

6. I wouldn't have though Muñoz would have been the slowest rookie on day one.

7. Ryan Briscoe may have been the forgotten signing this offseason. No one has talked about him returning to Ganassi thanks to the return of Montoya, Kanaan moving to Ganassi and the buzz around the Indianapolis 500 with Kurt Busch doing the double, Jacques Villeneuve returning and Robby Gordon and Paul Tracy reportedly working on rides for the month of May. Meanwhile, Briscoe was sixth quickest.

8. A few livery updates:
Josef Newgarden's livery looks good.
Bourdais will have Hydroxycut as a sponsor for seven races. Not a bad livery.
Sebastián Saavedra's AFS Chevrolet has a nice silver stripe.
Oriol Servià had an all black look. Probably a testing-only livery
Jack Hawksworth and BHA had a black and blue livery with Charter on the side.
Simon Pagenaud's car looks naked. Someone get him a sponsor.

9. It appears 22 cars will be the average IndyCar grid, down two from 2013. That's not necessarily a bad thing after looking at the depth of the field but wasn't it seven years ago we had two series each with eighteen full-time cars? There were some casualties from reunification and 36 full-time car was never practical but decreasing full-time entries is a trend IndyCar should be looking to buck. Lose two more cars and a lot of red flags will spring up.

Day two of testing will feature two session, one in the morning from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. ET and an afternoon session from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. ET.